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How to Cook Your Life

You know that Netflix thought I wouldn’t like this documentary? I guess I forgot to tell Netflix that I like to bake bread. If I had, that would have really helped matters.

This is a small little story that follows a zen cooking class and the instructor, Edward Brown. He wrote the Tassajara Cookbook – which includes their bread cookbook. If Netflix understood this, they’d know that I’ve checked his book out of the library and read through his book.

He’s a funny Zen Buddhist who makes it clear that enlightenment is a process and one that does not even remotely guarantee that you’re calm all the time (a scene where he battles a cheese packet is practically a “see, Zen practitioners are just like us!” in a raw frustration moment). This is more than made up for the nuggets of cooking wisdom that are woven throughout the documentary.

Edward talks about the lack of raw cooking today. It was odd, I had done some bread earlier that week, but depended on my KitchenAid for the kneading, so it was like he knew. Edward would point out that the mixer removed me from my food – I’m way ahead of just buying the package of bread, but I’m still not touching and getting to know my food on that level that ways I know the changes that the environment made to my dough that day. It did make me realize that there had been days during the summer that I’d given up on loaves when they weren’t rising right or they’d not done their oven lift. Am I ready to completely pack up the KitchenAid? Nah, I just avoid more humid days. ;)

Of course, watching how seriously a zen kitchen operates is something else. Rules are changed and discussed, but they do start to make sense. My favorite? The basic advice, “if you’re stirring the soup, stir the soup” and all the similar variations. As Edward explains it, you need to be present for cooking. You shouldn’t be doing 3 other things while you’re stirring your soup (or other things) – you should be concentrating on your food while you cook it. It sounds basic, but in these days of multi-tasking and “set it and forget it” time-savers, it is easy to assume that we can easily fit in one or two other things while we stir the soup, isn’t it?



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